Up big 1 minute, big trouble the next for Heat
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were rejoicing for the entirety of
their walk from the Dallas bench to the Miami bench. Heat players
spilled onto the floor, many with fists in the air.
Miami 88, Dallas 73, 7:14 remaining.
Game over, right?
Not a chance. An eerie turnabout from the Dallas-Miami matchup
in the 2006 finals was about to happen, and the Heat were powerless
to stop it.
Dallas outscored Miami 22-5 the rest of the way, harkening
memories of how the Heat saved their title hopes with a huge
fourth-quarter comeback in Game 3 against the Mavericks in
It not only silenced the Heat celebration, but wrested
home-court advantage in the NBA finals away from the Eastern
Conference champions as well.
Final score, Dallas 95, Miami 93, and the finals are knotted at
a game apiece.
”No question about it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
”That’s about as tough a fourth quarter as you can have. When it
started to slide, it kept on going.”
From the moment Wade gave Miami that 15-point lead with a
3-pointer from near the Mavs’ bench, the Heat went icy cold, making
only one of their final 11 shots. Dallas ended the game on a
9-for-10 tear from the field. Heat fans roared when Wade hit his
last 3-pointer, and wound up silenced when Dirk Nowitzki hit the
game-winning layup for Dallas with 3.6 seconds remaining.
Wade didn’t blame the offensive struggles.
”We didn’t have to score another point to win the game,” he
said. ”Our defense was what we lay our heads on. We didn’t play it
the way we normally play. They deserved it. And we didn’t.”
In 2006, the Heat rallied from 13 points down in Game 3 at home
midway through the fourth quarter, avoiding an 0-3 hole in that
series. Dallas got its long-awaited comeuppance Thursday night.
”There’s no way we’re going out like this,” Mavs guard Jason
Terry said, a clear nod to the line Wade used after Game 3 in
It’s the 12th time since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 finals format
that teams split the opening two games. Teams holding home-court
advantage recovered to win eight of the previous 11 series,
including last year when the Lakers topped the Celtics in seven
And in each of those 11 series, the Game 3 winner wound up
winning the NBA title. This now-super-pivotal Game 3 is Sunday in
”We will bounce back,” Spoelstra said.
Struggling to win close games was one of Miami’s biggest
challenges all season. The Heat went 5-14 in games decided by five
points or less in the regular season, but in the playoffs,
fourth-quarter closeouts had become one of Miami’s calling
Not on Thursday.
The Heat shot 53 percent in the first 41 minutes, and 9 percent
the rest of the way. Mario Chalmers’ 3-pointer with just under 25
seconds left tied the game, but Nowitzki drove down the lane for
the winner on Dallas’ final possession, with Miami having a foul to
give and second-guessing itself afterward about not taking
advantage of that.
Another question afterward: Why Chris Bosh was on Nowitzki then
instead of Udonis Haslem, who has done well against Dallas’ star in
In the wake of the collapse, there were no answers.
”We had everything going,” Bosh said. ”We had the momentum
They lost both quickly.
Plus, the postgame talk centered around how Wade and James did
after that 3-pointer with 7:14 to play. The Mavs thought Miami
celebrated too much in that moment. To hear Wade and James tell it,
they didn’t celebrate at all.
”A celebration is confetti, champagne bottles,” Wade said.
”There was no celebration.”
Added James: ”It was no celebration at all. I was excited about
the fact that he hit a big shot, and we went up 15. The same thing
we’ve done over the course of the season.”
Celebration, not a celebration, that all can be argued.
What matters was the score and the finish – and there’s no gray
Dallas has done this before, rallying from 15 down with 5
minutes left to beat Oklahoma City in overtime, on the road as
well, in the Western Conference finals.
This one was even more impressive, given the stakes.
”We were just trying to stay solid,” Mavericks coach Rick
Carlisle said. ”Look, James and Wade, they’re two of the best
facilitators – ever. … They missed a couple shots and it allowed
us to keep our momentum going.”
James and Wade – who started 22 for 28 from the field in the
game – closed a combined 0 for 7. James missed four shots in the
last 7 minutes, including two 3-pointers on the same possession
that got extended with an offensive rebound by Wade.
But James kept the ball at the top of the key for most of that
stint, the Heat never seeming to even get into a play, much less
”The way we closed the game is so uncharacteristic for us,”
Spoelstra said, ”on both ends of the court.”
Wade tried a desperation 3-pointer at the end, bouncing away as
he tumbled to the court, one of his rare missteps in a night where
he finished with 36 points.
It was the 12th time Wade scored at least 35 points in a playoff
game. Miami had been 11-0 when that happens.
”This is a long series, OK?” Spoelstra said. ”We’re not happy
about what happened. But we’ve got an opportunity in Game 3.”
The Heat and Mavericks finished the regular season tied for the
NBA lead with 28 road wins.
Dallas has done its part so far in the finals.
Miami now gets its chance. Bosh said the locker room was
disappointed, but not shocked.
”Just have to stay with it,” Bosh said. ”Don’t get too high.
Don’t get too low. Just stay with the plan. We’re faced with a
challenge now. We have to win on the road. We’ve done it before. We
shouldn’t be surprised that’s our situation.”
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